Tagged: students


The college application process is a grueling rite of passage for many high-schoolers, but for students without papers (called DREAMers), it can be an insurmountable wall. Despite having grown up in the U.S. - often after being brought here illegally as small children - as many as 95% of undocumented youth in the U.S. never get a chance at higher education. College applications force undocumented applicants to identify as "other" or "international," ensuring them a separate and unequal admissions process from their documented peers.

One such application - and the target of an elaborate hoax - is The Common Application, an online application accepted by upwards of 500 private colleges in the U.S.

On Thursday May 30, "Daniel Vargas," Communications Director of The Common Application, made an announcement saying the new version of the App would remove systematic barriers to higher education faced by undocumented students by (1) allowing them to identify themselves as "undocumented American" in the application; and (2) adding "undocumented status" to the organization's non-discrimination clause. Fittingly, the announcement was made at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in in American Higher Education (NCORE) in New Orleans and was very well received among the conference attendees. Many, like the President of Barnard College and U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez,took to social media to express support and several online news outlets following the issue happily reported the policy change.

'Twas not to last. After several inquiries from journalists, The Common App was forced to deny they had any such plans to end discrimination against undocumented applicants and maintained that no "Daniel Vargas" had ever worked for them. In fact, the announcement was issued by undocumented activist David Ramirez, who, along with some friends, had contacted the Yes Lab for help in pulling off this elaborate, optimistic stunt. Perhaps one day, the millions of undocumented Americans facing these barriers will get the good news they deserve for real.

Selected press:



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On October 12, 2012, Middlebury College welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama to campus. An announcement was made that in honor of the visit from the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, the College had chosen to demonstrate ethical leadership in divesting its endowment from war and environmental destruction. In reality, the satirical notice about Middlebury’s divestment was written by the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee, a group of students concerned that the College embraces practices inconsistent with its own proclaimed values.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama told the College, “Education is supposed to reduce the gap between appearance and reality.” The intent of the press release was to bring attention to the unsettling reality that Middlebury has millions of dollars invested in industries of violence, while it appears to stand for universal compassion and peace.
The administration attempted to expel the students; however, their effort ultimately backfired. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education quickly voiced their concern regarding the school choosing to clamp down on students’ rights to free speech. The students were granted an open hearing. In front of an audience of 272 people, filling the largest auditorium on campus, they articulated the tradition upon which they drew and morals that compelled them to act. Not only did the judicial board give the students no official College discipline, they expressed their true desire to see Middlebury divest from violence and environmental destruction.
There is a long history of academic institutions divesting to demonstrate their values. Today, a new call to divest is being heard around the nation: Bill McKibben—founder of 350.org and Middlebury College Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Residence—recently kicked off the national “Do the Math” campaign. It is focused on urging universities to divest from fossil fuels because “It just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on.”
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The flyer distributed around campus:

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June 5, 2013

Dreams of attending college dashed for many undocumented students
Undocumented activist takes credit for fake announcement that would have ended discrimination in college application process

New Orleans -- The Common Application, Inc., the college application service accepted by 488 colleges, has been trying to contain the news of a fake announcement that claimed they would cease discriminating against in the college application process.

When reached for comment, Executive Director Rob Killion said he did not know who was behind the false statement, but that it did not come from the Common Application: "There is nothing to share with you that is new about the way the Common App has approached undocumented students compared to how it has done so in the past." Killion explained that undocumented students can use the application but are not included in the Application's non-discrimination clause.

The hoax began last Thursday in New Orleans, when "Daniel Vargas, Communications Director for The Common Application," took the stage at the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education. “Vargas” is really David Ramirez, an undocumented activist with the Immigrant Youth Justice League from Chicago, who took credit for the fake announcement Tuesday afternoon. David/Daniel announced that the organization was (1) apologizing for "years of discrimination against the undocumented community," (2) including the category 'undocumented American' in the upcoming application, (3) adding “undocumented status” to the organization's non-discrimination clause, which legally binds over 400 private colleges that were discriminating.

"I did this because I am undocumented, my community is undocumented, and my community is under attack by the Common Application, which is stealing the hopes and dreams of my undocumented brothers and sisters across the country. I made the announcement because it needed to be said. I hope the Common Application repeats it word for word in the coming days." said David.

The announcement was welcomed by the 2,000 conference attendees, representing hundreds of colleges across the country, some of whom took to Twitter to echo David/Daniel's statement that "equality is not radical but common sense." A fake press release led to coverage by Cuentame, Colorlines, and other media outlets. On Twitter and Facebook tens of thousands welcomed this announcement as a historic stand for equality including national immigration groups, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the President of Barnard College, and many from the undocumented community.

Mitzy, an undocumented student at Freedom University in Georgia, commented: "The Common Application oppresses our community, segregates our nation's higher education system by immigration status, so our community is fighting back. I feel like the headline should read 'Brown v. Board retracted: Supreme Court Blames Activists for Hoax Ruling.'"

David, born in Mexico, has been undocumented since he was one year old. He has been openly undocumented since he was 17. A long time activist, David was arrested in a civil disobedience action in Atlanta in 2011 in opposition to the Georgia’s ban of undocumented students from public universities. David participated in the Undocubus in 2012 that protested the Democratic National Convention. David's recent act of political theater is a continuation of the undocumented community's struggle for college access.

David and Freedom University students have extended an invitation to Rob Killion to meet with them at Freedom University, a volunteer-run project offering free college-level classes to undocumented students. Because of Georgia’s ban, for most of the students their only option is to apply to private colleges - unfortunately over 400 of the Common Application's members are private colleges that routinely discriminate against undocumented applicants by labeling them "international," which guarantees them a separate and unequal admissions process. According to one study, as few as 5% of undocumented students ever attend college. Rob Killion has not responded to their offer to discuss the hopes and struggles of undocumented students.

For more information, please contact:
Daniel Vargas/David Ramirez
(202) 430 - 6048

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